Technology forms a digital bridge to reunite family at Beijing 2022

By Dennis Meng (People's Daily Online) 16:42, February 17, 2022

Photo taken on Feb. 10, 2022, shows Zhai Zheng posing with his wife and daughter inside Alibaba's Cloud ME booth. (Photo provided to People's Daily Online)

The last time Zhai Zheng participated in the Beijing Olympic Games, he was an Olympic Family Assistant (OFA) hailing from Beijing Foreign Studies University. That was the summer of 2008, and he was commuting between venues to offer assistance to Olympic officials. With the latest Beijing Games shifting into a winter mode, Zhai Zheng has taken on a new role as well: switching from a volunteer to an official overseeing the Games' OFA program. Having become one of the few people to take part in two Beijing Games is a "happy coincidence," he said.

Since entering the "closed loop," an epidemic control management system at the Beijing Winter Olympic Games, on January 23, Zhai has focused all of his attention on executing often detailed and complicated tasks. He has been busy training and dispatching volunteers to aid people from all over the world, while stationing himself in office without a chance to spectate any sports events. With all eyes fixed on the athletes and their awe-inspiring performances, Zhai is working round the clock to perfect the overall experience enjoyed by the Olympic big family. Even during the Spring Festival, a traditional Chinese holiday that is characterized first and foremost by the family reunion, he was still preoccupied with handling a miscellany of emergencies popping up throughout the day.

When Zhai was invited to partake in an activity on February 10, he didn't spend too much time pondering about just what it might be. The mysterious activity turned out to lead him into a room filled with a giant LED wall screen, on which he saw his wife and daughter's image presented on a vivid, almost lifelike screen. He would later discover that it was an "orchestrated surprise" and that the true-to-life image of his wife and daughter was powered by "Cloud ME," a cloud-based real-time communication (RTC) technology developed by Alibaba. "You two look so real and I can't help touching you through the screen," Zhai told his family during their special encounter.

With their full-body images projected on the same screen, the family of three had a chance to "reunite" in a special way and pose for the world's first "Cloud ME" family photo. "It came as a big surprise to me," Zhai told People's Daily Online during an interview. "My wife and daughter had known everything but they didn't tell me. It was a sweet lie."

As an associate professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University and also a dual participant of the Beijing Olympic Games, Zhai observed in his own eyes China's technological advancements. "From the opening ceremony to the Olympic venues, the Beijing Winter Olympic Games is brimming with technology," he said, "Although I haven't experienced those black technologies firsthand in the sports arena, I have tasted my share in the Cloud ME booth."

"Beyond technology … it is also a soft touch. For me, to have a chance to greet and meet with my family via the Cloud ME booth makes me feel the warm and tender side of technology," he said. 

(Web editor: Meng Bin, Liang Jun)


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